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CANCELED - SAS Lecture Series | Towards a History of the House Museum in Postcolonial South Asia

Akshaya Tankha, Forsyth Postdoctoral Fellow History of Art, University of Michigan
Friday, March 8, 2024
4:00-5:30 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
We regret that we have had to concel this event. We apologize for any inconvenience.

On March 29, 2023, the Delhi Art Gallery (DAG) announced its purchase of the modernist painter Jamini Roy’s house as India’s first professionally run private single artist museum—the Jamini Roy House Museum. Contrary to this statement by the DAG, the conversion of artists’ homes into museums has a longer history in India.

But more significantly, the announcement is a helpful reminder that the history of the house museum remains largely unexplored in the context of South Asia. If the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the modern state, and colonial conquests gradually lent new value to the private homes of illustrious figures as publicly accessible sites for the acquisition and display of various kinds of collections in Europe and the United States, the reanimation of the house as a museum is tied to the decline of colonialism and the articulation of nationalisms in South Asia. In a departure from the imaginary of the historic house or personal collection that anchors dominant accounts of the European and/or American house museum, the conversion of homes of Indian royal, literary, political, and cinematic icons into museums is often centered on memorializing the public life and authority of the deceased individual. Here, their domestic space and effects are represented as a site of reverence with recourse to religious and secular modes of exhibition, which speaks to the museum’s place in an expanded field of South Asian visual culture and public remembrance.

By attending to the layered histories and varied modes of display that characterize particular “memorial homes” and other houses as museums in India, this talk will undertake a processual engagement with the houseness of the house museum, highlighting its potential to illuminate the densities of the relationship between museums and public culture in postcolonial South Asia.

Tankha is an art historian of modern and contemporary South Asia. His research is focused on the relationship between aesthetics, politics, and postcolonialism in India. In his current book project, tentatively titled “Nagaland and the Art of Indigenous Presence in Postcolonial South Asia,” he explores the slippage that craft objects, memorial monuments, and house museums perform across ritual and secular domains of practice, the tensions that characterize this border-crossing, and what that tells us about the contemporaneity of art and the political significance of the aesthetic in the Indigenously-inhabited, predominantly Christian, and contested state of Nagaland in northeast India.

His research and teaching draw on his graduate studies in art history and anthropology, ethnographic research on museums, archival research on photography and modern and contemporary art in India, and teaching in universities and independent educational institutions in India, the University of Toronto, and Yale University.

His work has appeared in Marg, Trans Asia Photography, Lalit Kala Contemporary, IIC Quarterly, and in the books, The Artful Pose: Early Studio Photography in Mumbai c.1855-1940 (Mapin Publishing, 2010) and No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: the museum in South Asia, edited by Saloni Mathur & Kavita Singh (Routledge, 2015).

Made possible with the generous support of the Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, India, Museum
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for South Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures